Early Summer Dusk

  
Early summer dusk, the colors of the sky changing as I type. This special moment where the changes come fast and visible. Pay attention. Life happens fast.

The last dusk I spent outside was in Tokyo, in a park in my old neighborhood, reflecting on impressions of Japan with an Aikido friend from Kazakhstan. His as a first time visitor, mine as a resident on a brief return.

At dusk,
At dawn,
At the moment a storm’s come or gone;
In birth,
In death,
In an awakening breath;
Change begets change,
And each is a window to new possibilities
Unfolding in visions in thoughts’ interstices.
Lord show me the way.

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Time Travel

Last week one of my coworkers retired, I thought – shit I’m more than halfway there my myself. Same week one of my friends told of shopping for a funeral plot for his father, and since it’s a family plot, for himself, too. My friend is my age. Damn.

And how did it get to be fucking April already? Wasn’t it just January? As a kid, I’d hear adults saying stuff like this and think – meh, it’s because they haven’t made use of their time well that they regret its passage, but now I know it is simply letting oneself become aware of one’s precarious footsteps. Once, on the face of the earth, there were not any footsteps that were planted by me. Later, there will be a time when I shall plant no more footsteps.
The number of our footsteps and heartbeats is limited.

Hurtling through time and space, we can see what happened a hundred years ago, through the blurry filter of film, pictures, and books, but those people who saw it first hand are no longer with us, and though it may be possible for us to live beyond a hundred, what happens a hundred years from now, we will likely not see.

With slow conditioning, I am stronger, more balanced, and have better eyesight than I did ten years ago. My body has grown younger, and this has in some ways blinded me to the passage of time, but it is true – we are time travelers, and every day we get to make a few choices as to where we will be tomorrow. Life happens fast. Pay attention.

But in all our striving, we are not the final beneficiaries. Each day brings us a little closer to the dreamless sleep and the final forgetting.

Meanwhile every dance, every Aikido practice, every laugh is to me like a salve, like a refreshing wind or summer rain. In passing we can smell, touch, see, hear, taste, maybe remember it for a time, but we cannot own it. Surely my old friend PJ thought this as she sat on her back porch watching, smelling, listening to, feeling, and tasting the summer rain in the last stages of her struggle with cancer.

She has long passed into the unremembering sleep, but I can remember for her. In a way bits of us live in friends and family, just as I can be happy when my brother tells me of his vacation, so therefore his vacation is partly lived for me. Similarly, I can take a few deep breaths, and think of the pleasure PJ must have felt to be alive, and remember her healthy (the sound of her nerdy laugh) and share this pleasure of breathing with her vicariously.

Our time is too short.

Long has it been since I have reflected on the shadow of Death, but he is there, a faithful shadow who has followed me through all time, quietly whispering to remind me to be my better self, and promising though I may forget him, he will never desert me, until he lifts me up, and with a laugh or sigh, we say shit, fuck it, and step out into the void.

Temperance

In a Krav Maga video, the instructor talks about the correct way to use a gun to threaten someone at close range – not to hold it in front of the other’s face, where there is a danger that one can get into a struggle over the gun, or even be disarmed, but to stand with the gun pointed at the other party, and the elbow pulled back, while pushing with the other hand to put distance between oneself and the other party. I suppose the same is true for a knife.

I think this is true of the power to harm in general. It is most effective when used defensively, and loses some of its strength if brandished overtly.

質疑並玩耍的心態

這陣與同學透過練習及討論之些心得。
一, 和一位學長練時要不怕地表達出動作。如上班時需在上司前表達意見,甚至被駡時也要把該說的說出。我們不只在練身体,亦在練一個心態。
一, 我們可以質疑技法。特別在自由稽古中,覺得有空間必開,逃開, 阻擋時,我們可以這么做。但,要以玩耍的心態,不得比勝負。如此我們自然會避開死板的練習,將練習化而為活動的探索
一,不要讓對方受傷。自已也要當心不要硬撐著對方的壓力而自已受傷。則,衡量對方的容量。再說,不能比勝負,做不出來就算了。逃不開對方的技法,也算了。
一,最重要是兩人有沒有運動到。日人曰練武時要先「作身」。在討論細節之前,學生須有基礎的体能才可以了解。
一,開祖盛平大先生曰「目で分からんことは言葉で言ふても分からん。」釋是「眼睛看憧的,用說的也聽不𢤦。」
一,我與弟妹練時要謙虛。我亦未明皆答,惟練得久些已。皆學長姐與學弟妹練時必亦然。
一,教和練不同。學長姐教學弟妹,容易。與學弟妹練,較難。先輩要學如何和後輩練。怎么做得呢?我曾有本部道館的學長說「白帯にも稽古をさせなければ行けない」意為也要未昇段的

Changes

A walk through my old neighborhood in the area around Ebisu revealed:

The bakery and cafe that I used to go to at least once a week was no longer the same place – it was renovated. It is still a bakery, but has too much furniture, and the inside has become darker. What used to be seating space with floor-to-ceiling windows has become a serving counter, with reduced seating, and doesn’t feel as open.

The curry place that I used to go to is no longer in business. It was run by an art dealer who had books and parts of his wares on display. Even the door is a wooden door from Morocco.

It was a weekday afternoon. Office hours, but there were still a lot of people on the street. I remembered what my roommate from Australia said at the hostel – there are so many people just walking around, alone. They do not look like they are on the way someplace. They do not look like they are buying anything. They are just walking around, and they are not smiling. They don’t look happy.

“Go to the country-side.” I told him. “Tokyo is its own thing. The countryside is different.”

Sunset in Ebisu garden place, I stood on the second-floor terrace looking west to the sun, bright orange against a cloudless sky. I became aware of someone standing behind me. It was a man of about 60 in an Ebisu garden place uniform. he was sweeping, but had stopeed to look at the sunset, too. In a sea of buildings wrought by man, the sun is a reminder of the vastness of space and time.

I went to the top of the Ebisu Garden Place Tower, and found that the chairs that were on the 38th floor, where one could sit, read, or take a nap, are gone. One less place to take repose. But, I had my view of the city to the west, and of the sunset.

 

Observed and Overheard

Observed: After an Aikido demonstration, he bowed to his uke, then bowed to the front. This was customary. Then, he paused, and bowed to the audience, which struck me as  original.

「站在底的橋下,身體挺高,也只是撞到自已的頭。」
“When standing under a low bridge, standing tall only causes you to hit your head.”
(compare with Japanese: 出る釘が打たれる。 The nail that sticks out gets struck.)

「大家忘了台語,很可惜,但是這個是時代的潮流。我也有聽不憧台語的朋友。我們不可能講台語然後翻給他聽。語言也只的一個方法。說出來,意思通就好了。」
“That people are forgetting to speak Taiwanese is too bad, but this is the direction of history. I have friends who don’t speak Taiwanese. It’s not practical for us in a group to speak Taiwanese and then translate so that he can understand. Language is just a means. What’s important is understanding.”

我覺得我可以從這個很蠢的東西感到動力。
不是蠢。是夢想。
別人也許會覺得很蠢。
你就做你的夢想。也須不會有回報,但是沒有夢想,什麼都沒有。別人怎麼感覺,是他們的事。
你不會覺得很蠢嗎?
這個說法沒有在我的詞彙裏。

I think I can keep going if I lose myself in this foolishness.
It’s not foolishness. It’s a dream.
Some might say it’s naiveté.
Work toward your dreams. Without them, what do you really have? What other people think is their business.
Don’t you think it’s naive?
Such a statement is not in my vocabulary.

我有障碍… 只是,我還在學。
I am handicapped… Well, it’s only that I’m still learning.

In Focus

We had a teacher visit from Japan with two students, to teach an Aikido seminar. During the seminar, I was doing freestyle with the bigger one. I’m about 60kg, so he must have been about 90kg, a former sumo wrestler, I heard.

The teacher walked by when it was my turn to throw. “You’re being nice.” She observed. “You should throw harder.”

“Harder?” I asked. I did a series of three iriminage techniques on my partner, at growing intensity.

“Yes, that’s better.” said the teacher.

Turnabout is fair play, so when it was my partner’s turn to throw me, he threw hard, too. Aikido has ancient jujitsu roots, but the techniques have been de-lethalized just enough that they can be done at full speed for practice. For a few minutes, I felt myself acutely alive. When I was slammed into the ground, I rolled out of the fall to attack again. When he attacked, I broke his balance, led him along, then slammed him into the ground. Everything curiously in focus. I can play the experience back in slow motion.

Over a decade of training. Freestyle practice brought into focus by the intensity of training with an unpredictable and skilled attacker. Aikido is many things. It is aerobic exercise. It is postural improvement. It is a bone-strengthener. It is good for metabolism. It is a way to meet people. But it is also the joy of finding a compatible partner and slamming each other into the ground until you each are panting and sweaty, and bow to each other saying “thank you for this experience.”